I was having a chat with my friend FrankenFran,
and I was telling him "man, I'm getting really nervous about the ps4. There haven't been any news releases about ps4 dev kits, and nextbox ones have been out for around a year or so. This means that the ps4 won't likely be released until sometime in 2014".
To this he had a really interesting reply, which I'll summarize and expound for you.
Think about it like this. Everything Sony has been doing recently supports a ps4 being released on time, it's just not in the form that we're used to. Look at their moves with purchasing Gaikai. Look at their expansion of Gaikai onto multiple platforms, ios, android, pc...even XBOX. Look at their cooperation with Valve and Gabe Newell. Why on earth would Sony open up their online system to work alongside valve with portal 2 crossplay?
The theory is that Sony approached Gabe a ways back and made clear their intentions for their future console. Sony would go online distribution, and they asked for Mr. Newell's help. (Maybe)
Everything makes so much sense from that standpoint.
1) Cuts out the middleman gamestop, removes a big part of their revenue problem, used games. Will be able to offer games at a reduced rate. Have 'steam' sales
2) Allows them to save on next gen hardware. They don't have to be cutting edge, because the cloud will do all the work.
3) Anti-piracy straight from the server. Of course, there will always be hacks and pirate servers.
4) Allows them to focus more on their content.
5) Allows them exclusive ability to go third party without really going third party. They can put their high content games on ios, android, EVEN XBOX and WiiU, while the reverse cannot happen.
6) Gives them a transition back into their pc business, which Kaz said was a major component, also their phone and pad business.
7) Saves on all major secondary costs such as shipping, boxing, distribution, storage
8) This can all be done straight from their current hardware. No need to improve. Which means, if 360 makes major upgrades, it will be by itself, while ps3 and wiiU are able to run similar quality levels, making those two the major multiplat and base console devs choose over the fledgling 720.
9) Full backwards compatibility spanning all their systems.
Anyhoo, to summarize. I'm not expecting to see any huge hardware from sony for the ps4. I believe we'll see something similar to Onlive in the Orbis. We may eventually see a new fully fledged console out at some point, but the point is that they may not need to improve on the ps3 very much. A console with say a 20% power boost over ps3, that can use the vita in a similar setup to wiiU and upgrade all current ps3 offerings would be ideal. In this way, they can still sell boxed games for offline play, people looking to maximize responsiveness/own/collect/whatever, while simultaneously being able to offer a 'high-res' version of their game over the same console through the cloud.